The Zen of an Ancient Synagogue in Ruins

You can travel to the Far East to meditate in a Zen temple. But there are other spiritual options closer to home – in the Galilee, for example

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The synagogue near Kibbutz Baram. Ruined synagogues like this can be more inviting than functioning houses of worship.
The synagogue near Kibbutz Baram. Ruined synagogues like this can be more inviting than functioning houses of worship.

My son goes into the synagogue and in a twinkling seems to morph into a shadow, as though sucked into the past where a different sun is shining. The ancient synagogue, next to Kibbutz Baram in Western Galilee, was built around 400 C.E. although some date it to earlier.

A few days before Passover, there is no one here. I’m sitting on a rock beneath a Judas Tree. The heart-shaped leaves of the tree, aka Love Tree and Red Bud, are rustling quietly near the synagogue’s supporting pillars, which also form a heart. The bustle, conversation and prayer that were undoubtedly rampant here 1,600 years ago are now supplanted by the sound of busy bees droning among the tree’s pink blossoms. Dark agamid lizards peek out from cracks in the chiseled stones. Ants skitter across the synagogue floor. The chirping of small birds is heard from outside and fills the space of the roofless structure whose doors and windows are open to the four winds. A few gunshots ring out. The northern border is not far away.

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